Bangladesh aim to fell a giant
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Start time 1430 local (0330 GMT)
At the start of the World Cup, defending champions India would have accepted gleefully the position they find themselves in - a quarter-final against Bangladesh, the lowest-ranked of the remaining eight teams, a side with medium-pacers and spinners that India's batsmen have found relatively easy to bully, a team without big-match experience, and a team with vulnerabilities outside the subcontinent. Ironically, Bangladesh would probably have accepted their position too.
Though India, on current form, are superior in every aspect, their brand of cricket and their frailties are not unfamiliar to Bangladesh. It isn't South Africa, who are going to blow them away with extreme pace and bounce, or with muscular hitting. India's batsmen are better at what Bangladesh aim for - timing, using the pace of the ball, and wristwork - and India execute better in the field with a similar bowling formation to Bangladesh. There is no doubt about who the favourites are - Bangladesh admitted as much - but it allows them to plan more intuitively.
When the ICC fixed the knockout schedule, Bangladesh were not mentioned. The MCG was to host the England quarter-final, and if they didn't make it the team that did in their place would play at Australia's largest ground. Bangladesh grabbed that spot with verve, handing England their return tickets after a clinical finish in Adelaide. They even came close to finishing third in their group. With the batsmen scoring consistently and all the bowlers contributing, Bangladesh are deservedly in the last eight.
What could help Bangladesh is India going off the boil, but that hasn't happened yet in this tournament. In a complete turnaround from their first two months in Australia, India have found the aura defending champions ought to bring. Barring one or two players, everyone has contributed to the resurgence. The quarter-final appears to be their smallest bump on the road ahead, but one uncontrolled approach is all it takes.
(last five matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Bangladesh's fielders struggled with the size of the MCG playing area against Sri Lanka, their first game at the ground. They dropped catches and they grappled with field placements. It was not a surprise that during practice for the quarter-final, fielders were made to charge in from the edge of the boundary to take catches, fire throws and understand the unique dimensions of the venue. Bangladesh's bowling coach Heath Streak also tested umpire Aleem Dar's catching with three hits. All were taken, drawing applause from the players, who knew it was an important skill to judge catches in the outfield where only rarely is one able to see the ball against a disturbance-free background. One mistake on Thursday and it could mean the end of a dream for a generation of cricketers.
India's pace bowling in this tournament has been such a revelation that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who was considered integral to their chances, cannot find a place in the XI. In the last two games, however, there were periods when they struggled against the Ireland and Zimbabwe batsmen. The switch to New Zealand conditions could have been one reason, but it could also have been a sign of increasing weariness. India will hope that a return to Australia will help Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma maintain the intensity.
Mashrafe Mortaza missed Bangladesh's last group game against New Zealand, but will be back to lead the side. That would leave Arafat Sunny, Taijul Islam and Nasir Hossain fighting for the remaining spot. Nasir, who picked up two wickets against New Zealand, could be the favourite because he would strengthen the batting.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Soumya Sarkar, 4 Mahmudullah, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Arafat Sunny/Nasir Hossain, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Taskin Ahmed
India talked about a sense of calm ahead of the big match. They are highly unlikely to disturb that with any alteration in the team, barring injury.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli, 4 Ajinkya Rahane, 5 Suresh Raina, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Mohit Sharma, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Umesh Yadav
Pitch and conditions
The pitch for the quarter-final is the same one that was used in the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka Group A game. It's expected to be flat and full of runs. However, teams would keep an eye on the weather as some showers are forecast for Thursday afternoon and evening.
Stats and trivia
- Bangladesh are playing their first knockout match in a top-flight ICC tournament. India, on the other hand, are playing their 10th under MS Dhoni's captaincy. Dhoni, with eight wins from nine matches (Champions Trophy, World T20 and World Cup) is level with Ricky Ponting, whose eight wins have come from 11 games.
- Bangladesh batsman Mahmudullah has scored 344 runs from five games in this World Cup, more than anyone from India. Five of Bangladesh's top 10 aggregates for batsmen in a World Cup have come in this tournament.
- None of the India batsmen in this squad has scored a century in an ICC tournament knockout game.
- This is Bangladesh's 300th ODI. They played India in their 100th (2004) and 150th ODI (2007), winning both games.
"I wanted to congratulate Bangladesh for qualifying for the quarter-final. It's good to see India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - all four subcontinent teams - in the quarter-final. Earlier people were saying that we don't have allrounders for conditions, so it's good to see the teams from subcontinent through."
India batsman Suresh Raina
"2007 won't help; 2011, when we lost, that doesn't help either. In short-form cricket, what is important is how you do on the day."
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza
Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo